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Wilbur Dorsey Clayton

African American jazz musician, band leader.  Born:  November 12, 1911, Parsons, Kansas.  Died: December 8, 1991, New York City.

Wilbur Dorsey "Buck" Clayton was born November 12, 1911, in Parsons, Kansas. Clayton came from a musical family that supported and encouraged him to explore jazz music. His father taught him piano beginning at age six. At 17 he began playing the trumpet.

His playing career began in California.  He spent two or three years in Shanghai where he appeared with Teddy Weatherford's band. Upon returning to the United States around 1936, he was the the lead soloist with the first great Count Basie band until he was drafted into World War II.

Following the war, Clayton arranged music for Count Basie, Henry James, and Benny Goodman, as well as continuing to tour and record. Clayton was noted for his ensemble and solo work, particularly with Lester Young and Billie Holliday.

Lip surgery forced Clayton to give up the trumpet but he found he could not give up music.  He worked as an arranger and toured Africa as part of a U.S. State Department series in 1977.  In the 1980s he led bands, one on a European tour.  He also taught at Hunter College in New York.

Clayton died in December 8, 1991, in New York City.

Entry: Clayton, Wilbur Dorsey

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2009

Date Modified: April 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.